Unification Church ordered to pay 280 mil. yen over fraudulent sales

Toyko, Japan - The Tokyo District Court ordered the Unification Church on Tuesday to pay about 280 million yen in damages to a woman who said she was swindled of a large amount of money under the religious group's fraudulent sales campaign.

Presiding Judge Masazumi Hashimoto ruled that the church, founded in South Korea, illegally made the plaintiff feel insecure and frightened her and forced her to donate money and purchase expensive goods.

The church threatened the plaintiff by saying her "family line will fail" or she would "fall into hell," the judge said, declaring such acts illegal.

Acting on a 540 million yen damages suit filed by the 68-year-old woman in Tokyo, the three-judge panel found that the plaintiff was invited in 1991 to join the Unification Church and contributed about 280 million yen and purchased expensive paintings and seals over a 12-year period through 2003.

The amount awarded is probably the biggest to a single individual involving the Unification Church's sales campaign, the plaintiff's lawyers said.